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Cablegate: Kenya Hits Turbulence On Approach to "Safe Skies"

VZCZCXYZ0000
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHNR #2041/01 2410638
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 280638Z AUG 08
FM AMEMBASSY NAIROBI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 6890
INFO RUEHXR/RWANDA COLLECTIVE
RULSDMK/DOT WASHDC
RHMCSUU/FAA WASHDC
RUEAHLC/HOMELAND SECURITY CENTER WASHDC

UNCLAS NAIROBI 002041

SENSITIVE

DEPT FOR AF/E, AF/RSA, AND AF/EPS
DEPT FOR EEB/TRA J EMERY
DEPT ALSO PASS TO DOT FOR CORNELIA (CONNIE) HUNTER
TSA FOR JILLENE MACCREERY, CARLOS DE LA TORRE, AND MIRIAM MOSES
FAA FOR DONNA KRIMSKI
FAA REPRESENTATIVE DAKAR

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAIR ECON ASEC PTER KCRM KE
SUBJECT: KENYA HITS TURBULENCE ON APPROACH TO "SAFE SKIES"

REF: NAIROBI 1725

1. (SBU) Summary: The Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA) must
immediately hire at least three qualified aviation inspectors if
Kenya is to potentially achieve FAA Category One status within 12-18
months. Despite the high salaries demanded by these inspectors,
Prime Minister Odinga and Transport Minister Ali Mwakwere remain
committed to the goal of achieving Category One to accrue the
benefits of direct flights to the U.S. and take full advantage of
the June 2008 Bilateral Open Skies Agreement. Odinga and Mwakwere
agree on how to fill the current vacancies: upgrade KCAA to a higher
category para-statal, thereby permitting KCAA to pay higher salaries
to recruit and retain qualified inspectors to certify Kenya Airway's
diverse fleet. As of August 27, the proposal to upgrade KCAA's
para-statal status and add inspectors was pending approval before
Cabinet. Both physical and programmatic security upgrades to Jomo
Kenyatta International Airport are also needed for Kenya to achieve
Category One; the Prime Minister has instructed the Kenya Airport
Authority to implement the upgrades. Moreover, Odinga's task is to
make -- in practice -- the Kenya Airports Authority (KAA) and Kenya
Airways (KQ) subordinate to KCAA; this oversight is the pillar of
FAA Category One for safety as well as International Civil Aviation
Organization and Transportation Security Administration (TSA)
requirements. Even with the best of intentions, Kenya's achievement
of Category One could take at least 12-18 months. End Summary.

2. (SBU) Visiting DOT "Safe Skies for Africa" Program Manager
Connie Hunter, accompanied by the DCM, A/ECON Counselor, and TSA
Regional Advisor, met with Prime Minister Odinga August 18. The
purpose of the meeting was to inform Odinga of the immediate steps
that Kenya must take to achieve FAA Category One status, a
prerequisite for direct flights to the U.S. Hunter made clear that
the cash-strapped Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA) must
immediately hire at least three qualified journeymen-level aviation
inspectors (two covering flight operations, the other
airworthiness). Hunter explained that KCAA needs these inspectors
onboard now to certify Kenya Airways' (KQ) diverse fleet of
aircraft, including Boeing 737s, 767s, and 777s, as part of the
process of meeting international safety standards leading to
achieving FAA Category One status. Hunter emphasized that without
these inspectors (and a plan to retain them), Kenya's pursuit of FAA
Category One -- and the benefits of the June 2008 Bilateral Open
Skies Agreement -- would stall. On the other hand, if KCAA could
hire the inspectors "today," Kenya could potentially obtain Category
One status within 12-18 months. Hunter noted a $1 million U.S.
pledge to the East African Community's regional aviation safety and
security oversight organization, which could help offset training
costs for any new Kenyan inspectors, potentially including flight
simulators training. Hunter reiterated the requirement for
sustainable safety and security oversight by KCAA.

3. (SBU) The Prime Minister thanked Hunter for continued U.S.
assistance on civil aviation. After briefly consulting with his
staff, Odinga suggested that the solution would be to upgrade KCAA's
para-statal status to provide it the authority and the budget to pay
the high salaries needed to hire and retain these specialized
inspectors. (Note: In the past, Kenya Airways and Middle Eastern
airlines have repeatedly poached U.S.-trained KCAA inspectors,
luring them away with generous salaries and benefits.) Odinga said
he would discuss the para-statal upgrade with President Kibaki
within the week, noting the benefits to tourism and trade that would
accrue from KQ's access to the U.S. market. He concluded the
meeting by stating "we will do everything possible to make this
happen."

4. (SBU) In a follow-on meeting with Minister of Transportation
Mwakwere and the heads of KQ, KCAA, and the Kenya Airport Authority
(KAA), Hunter delivered the same message regarding the need for KCAA
to hire qualified inspectors to certify KQ's technically advanced
fleet. Hunter also noted that KAA had not yet implemented security
upgrades required by TSA for the airport to serve as a last point of
departure for flights to the United States. The upgrades include
enhancements to both the physical layout of the airport/terminal as
well as to several key programs. Without the inspectors and
security upgrades, KQ would not be permitted to fly to the U.S.,
Hunter said. Contrasting KQ with Delta, Hunter noted that Delta's
fleet was already FAA certified and the only obstacles to Delta's
providing direct U.S-Kenya-U.S. flights were relatively minor
security upgrades in the terminal area of JKIA.

5. (SBU) In response, Minister Mwakwere said he had instructed KAA
to expedite the required security enhancements at the airport. The
Minister responded that he was aware of the inspectors issue and
that he was forwarding to Cabinet a proposal to upgrade the status
of KCAA to provide it the authority and budget to hire and retain
the specialized inspectors. Note: As of August 26, the proposal to
upgrade KCAA (including the addition of ten new inspector positions)
was still before Cabinet awaiting approval. End Note.

6. (SBU) Comment: The GOK ranks para-statals according to their
"revenue importance." KAA, whose Managing Director, George Muhoho,
is a close friend of President Kibaki, enjoys the highest ranking.
On the other hand, KCAA, which theoretically oversees KAA, has had a
lower ranking. Not only has this imbalance made it impossible for
cash-strapped KCAA to hire and retain qualified
personnel/inspectors, it has also created a situation where KCAA
cannot exercise oversight of the KAA -- or of Kenya Airways and
other airlines.

7. (SBU) Comment continued: We have long championed KCAA and
advised the GOK of the need to put more resources and authority into
KCAA in order to make it a sovereign and well-equipped aviation
oversight body. DOT Hunter's visit was timely and useful in
focusing high-level GOK attention on the obstacles to achieving
Category One status, and precipitating actions to remove them.
Clearly, the June 2008 Bilateral Open Skies Agreement (signed by
Minister Mwakere and witnessed by the Prime Minister in Washington),
which opens the possibility of direct flights by Kenya Airways to
the U.S., has galvanized the Government of Kenya. While
disappointed to learn that the certification of KQ's fleet, along
with other tasks, could delay achievement of that goal by another
12-18 months -- even if the security upgrades to JKIA were complete
and aviation inspectors hired "yesterday" -- both the Prime Minister
and Minister of Transportation announced their intention to expedite
the process and achieve Category One as quickly as possible. End
comment.


RANNEBERGER

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